Of Media Business, Independence and why I never raised funding

“Plus, you have to promote our portfolio companies in a subtle way. “

Said one of the well known funds who wanted to invest in NextBigWhat.
Back in 2014-15, we had a great opportunity to raise funding (pre-Series A) at a damn good valuation. But, it came with clauses starting from ‘not doing any negative stories on portfolio companies’ to ‘always supporting their portfolio companies’ to ‘do a bit of negative on competition‘.
Unlike regular product /tech startup, for media businesses – content is the product and more often than not, it is up for sale/influence once you raise money.
Since I never belonged to the media industry, I had a choice. And the choice was to grow slow and importantly, at ‘our own terms and conditions’.

Why am I talking about all this?

Well, the Cobrapost operation pretty much tells you the state of media business (in India) and how media has essentially become a mouthpiece of few voices (government, industrialists).

That is, it becomes a prostitution business (and by saying that, I don’t mean to demean prostitution business – it is far more ethical practice than running a media business).

Do you think startup/tech media is different? No.
Most of the funded media businesses in India* eventually are a mouthpiece of their investors. And investors/business buy either editorial favors or silence.
And it shows up.
There is a difference between selling a product and selling your soul and I refuse to give in to this mindset.
Over the last 2 years, I have literally let the NextBigWhat traffic go down because I am fundamentally not sure that startups at scale are different from the traditional businesses – especially in their impact, their ethics and their day-to-day practice.
And maybe, I am better off not supporting these startups/companies (from outside) or if I do, I better have a skin in the game** (so that I can ask questions/debate with leadership teams at various such junctures).
Which is where I come to the next point – we are expanding our focus on NextBigWhat from

(so far) pure startups to businesses, tech and importantly, culture.

  • Tech that will influence the next generation (esp Blockchain – if there is one phenomena which can decentralize power, it is Blockchain),
  • Culture (for e.g. the dark skinned gods) which raises the level of debate and gives a voice to common men/women who are fighting these odds.

Not as a media, but a curator focused on bringing the most important layer to Internet – RELEVANCE.
As a country (and a global citizen), I believe we are badly polarized/fucked with what media has given us – more paid stories, more negativity and very little to look forward to.
High time somebody brings that change.

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